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Pyrenean High Route 2009 - Trip Report



1. Getting there!Cost 



Easyjet from Newcastle to Stansted, 07.15 departure



Ryanair Stansted to Biarritz, 12.15 departure, arrive Biarritz 15.25 local time£17.80
Ryanair Pau to Stansted - after the walk£27.00
Walked from Biarritz airport to train station - 20 mins 
20 minute train ride to Hendaye - arrived 17.40 
Walked to campsite 30 yards from the beach - 30 mins 
2. Route Summary 
 FromToGuide book time (hrs)Accommodation
Day 1HendayeCol de Lizuniaga8.25Wildcamp (230m)
Day 2Col de LizuniagaElizondo7.25Hotel
Day 3ElizondoCol de Meharrozteguy7.25Wildcamp (738m)
Day 4Col de MeharrozteguyCol d'Errozate9.50Wildcamp (1076m)
Day 5Col d'ErrozateCol Bargargui6.00Campsite
Day 6Col BargarguiRefugio de Belagua9.80Campsite
Day 7Refugio de BelaguaLescun7.00Gite
Day 8LescunPla d'Espelunguere9.50Wildcamp (1400m)
Day 9Pla d'EspelunguereLac de Peyreget9.00Wildcamp (2074m)
Day 10Lac de PeyregetRefuge Larribet9.50Refuge
Day 11Refuge LarribetLac d'Arrantille9.75Wildcamp (2247m)
Day 12Lac d'ArrantilleGavarnie11.25Hotel
  Average walking/day8.67 
3. Character  
Days 1-5  

I spent the first few hours of the walk looking for Meths in Hendaye - to no avail, I had no choice but to leave anyway - according to the guide meths is freely available in towns but I couldn't find any. -TIP: the French words for Meths are 'alcool a bruler' (write it down!) and the Spanish: 'alcoholes de quemar'.

This meant that the first wildcamp meal was basically sandwiches! And I decided to stay in Elizondo on the second night in order to try the local supermarkets - this paid off and I was able to buy some alcoholes de quemar the following morning.


The first 5 days of the High Route are akin to walking in the Lake District or similar parts of England, I even had Lake District weather on the first two days.

Very pleasant walking, route finding was the hardest in this section because the guidebook doesn't provide enough information and the 1:50,000 maps are not detailed enough to make positive decisions.

As the route gets more into the mountains there are less route choices so the route finding is easier!

I struggled finding water during this section and on some of the wildcamps I had to carry extra water just in case it wasn't available - which was the case. I worked out I needed a minimum of 2 Litres for a nights camping, excluding having water to take with me on the trail the following day.





Days 6-12  

Once in the mountains the walking and scenery is much more pleasant. There is a decent little shop in Lescun where I was able to stock up on food for the days ahead so once I left Lescun any supply problems that had been on my mind had now been resolved. Water was suddenly plentiful and the high route became hugely enjoyable.

The best wildcamp was at Lac du Peyreget, I stopped here late afternoon, I had been heading for Refuge de Pombie which allows camping outside but Lac du Peyreget was captivating so I stopped earlier than planned.

I was glad I did, the following morning I was about an hour from Pombie, as I crossed the col I could see it in the distance - and a sea of tents all around. The two toilets between so many people were begining to grumble and I was pleased to pass quickly through and get on my way.

The route from here to Refuge Larribet is spectacular, I had a long lunch at Refuge d'Arremoulit, after passing the exposed but relatively easy Passage d'Orteig. The ascent to Col du Palas is straight forward with a neat, mainly level route to Port du Lavedan, which is best described as a slot in the ridge that you squeeze through.

I had planned to stay at Refuge Larribet in order to supplement my food and to (hopefully) get a decent shower. On arrival there was no warm water and hardly any power. The staff did a sterling job producing a good meal under arduous conditions but the rest of the experience left me hankering after my tent!

The guide suggests the Refuge Wallon as the next stop, I wanted to go further than this so continued higher into the mountains and camped by Lac d'Arrantille. The mist had descended by the time I arrived and it was getting dark, so its was a hurried pitch.

The next day I was rewarded by early morning sunlight slowly permeating the high peaks - a joy to walk through with not another soul in sight. Progress was effortless for most of the day as I passed Vignemarle and on to lunch at Refuge d Bayssellance before the long descent to Gavarnie.

This was in fact my last day of walking as I had decided to push on to Gavarnie to give me a full day to travel to Pau before my morning flight to the UK the day after. I arrived in Gavarnie as night fell, the final approach is by road and the 'cheap' hotels were not very impressive. After walking out of two I found a good one - Le Compostelle - they even had a room with a bath! I have no hesitation in recommending them:





4. Getting Back  

There are two buses out of Gavarnie, early morning and early evening. As I had arrived the previous day I got the early morning bus to Luis St Savier and waited there for a couple of hours and another bus to Lourdes. From Lourdes I took the train to the centre of Pau.

I left Gavarnie at about 7am and arrived in Pau just before lunch.

If I had arrived in Gavarnie a day later and took the evening bus I would have arrived in Pau late in the evening - still in time for my flight the following morning but would have had to take any accommodation available. As it was I managed to get a reasonable deal a short walk out of the city centre.

The final morning I took a taxi to the airport.




5. Other useful bits!  
Total cost for the full 2 weeks, including flights, transfers, accommodation and meals was around £650.  
During September 1st light was around 7.15am and nightfall 8.45pm.